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SAVCA 2022 day two 774.jpg


beyond proving

the business case

Tanya Goncalves [nee van Lil]

Former CEO of SAVCA

Gender balanced teams – teams who have between 30% to 70% women in leadership roles – achieve, on average, a 20% higher net IRR[1]. This is just one proof point. There are more data points that highlight the value that women bring to the investment process. So, why then, does it feel like we are still focusing on the need to prove the business case, particularly in the investment industry?


During my 5-year tenure as CEO of the Southern African Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (SAVCA), I had a front row seat to the changes taking place in the industry and the increasing role that women play, and I would like to share some of my observations here.


An increase in women-owned fund managers 

When I joined in March 2017, there were only five women-owned fund managers that were members of SAVCA. These trailblazing women made their mark on the industry as experts in their field. Armed with experience, tenacity and courage, they started their own funds.


Fast forward to 2022, there are currently 16 women-owned fund managers that are members of SAVCA. Although this figure represents a 320% growth in five years, the growth is off a low base and has been slow.


You may be asking yourself why the growth has been slow, especially as there are development programmes and initiatives such as WE>MI[2] and the 2X Challenge[3] to drive change? Through conversations and from what I’ve observed, there is still a level of unconscious bias towards women, and questions about their ability to manage capital, even if research proves otherwise. This perception tends to lengthen the time it takes for women-owned fund managers to raise capital, and increases the “number of hoops” they must jump through before being allocated capital.


There is also a limited pool of capital to raise from, given only a handful of investors are willing to invest in women owned fund managers, and even when they do invest, the amounts are smaller in comparison to male-owned fund managers. We need more investors with a mandate to invest in women-owned fund managers if we don’t want the progress made thus far to regress.


More women in decision-making roles

South Africa has always outperformed global markets when it comes to the number of women that are directly employed by the private equity sector. Worldwide, women make up just under 18%[4] of the total employees within the private equity market, whilst in South Africa that number currently sits at 43%[5].


Five years ago, the majority of the women I engaged with at industry events worked in support services or “back office” roles, such as marketing, administration or finance. Today, there are more women in senior positions and critical investment decision-making roles than five years ago. Although only 28% of the Investment Professionals in the industry are women, as the private equity sector matures and grows, I am confident that we will see more women take up senior investment roles.


The power of the pack

In 2019, Forbes published an article titled, “Power of the pack: Women who support women are more successful”[6] . When discussing industry dynamics with a friend who has extensive experience in the broader financial services industry, her observation of the private equity industry was that women in the industry are far more supportive of each other than she has experienced elsewhere.


I, too, have experienced this support from the women in the industry who are open to sharing knowledge, ideas and contacts; who assist each other to solve problems and open doors. Although, I must confess, I have not only experienced this support from women, as there are a lot of male allies in the industry who recognise the power of the pack as an industry.


Paying tribute

There are other observations I’ve been privy to over the past five years, but as I conclude with the main three, I want to pay tribute to those strong, capable and trailblazing women in the industry who not only paved the way, but took others along with them; who are living examples that show we need to move beyond proving the business case, to doing what we can to bring others along with us on the journey, 365 days of the year.

  1. Moving toward gender balance in private equity and venture capital:

  2. Women Empowerment Mentoring and Incubation Fund Management Programme:





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